When you’re a landlord and have regular turnover in your units, the work that you need to get done between occupancies can start to feel like it’s taking up all of your time—partially because if you have enough properties, it actually is taking up all of your time. Tenant turnover procedures and responsibilities can take up a lot of time, but another reason you may feel like you’re running around all over the place can be chalked up to doing tasks that are unnecessary. In order to ensure you’re making the most of your time, you need to be aware of what’s truly required of you as a landlord or property owner when one tenant moves out. Finding out what your responsibilities are between tenant occupancies can not only save you a lot of time, but it can save you some money, too.
Don’t Expect Your Tenants to Leave the Place Move-In Ready
The first step with this process is to go into the situation with reasonable and realistic expectations. In other words, while in a perfect world all of your tenants would patch holes in walls, scrub the floors til they’re sparkling, and do everything else necessary to bring the apartment back to life, that will almost never be the case. Tenants can generally be expected to clean the apartment before they move out, but they’ll be busy focusing on getting their moving plans and their new apartment in order, not making sure that their old place is in perfect condition and prepped for new tenants. Keep in mind that the responsibility for making the apartment ready for your next tenant will largely fall on you and your property management company.
What Needs to Be Done Between Tenant Occupancies?
Think about what you would expect an apartment to look like when you moved into it for the first time—that can be a starting guideline to knowing what you need to do for your tenants. For instance, if the paint and walls are dirty, scuffed, or scratched, you need to repaint them so that the apartment looks its best. Your new tenants are paying to live in a comfortable, habitable space, so it’s up to you to make sure their new home is livable and inviting.
Appearance, Security, and Safety of Chicago Rentals
Beyond aesthetic work like repainting, you need to make sure your new tenant is aware that they need to set up the utilities in their own name. This is usually outlined in tenant leases, but it can’t hurt to remind new occupants of that responsibility.
You’ll also need to rekey the locks for the apartment. This is a security measure that will prevent former tenants from having access to the unit, and thus, it keeps your new tenants optimally safe. Be sure to get the keys back from the old tenant, as well. Even with rekeying individual units, many buildings have master keys for the main entryway doors that may not be rekeyed every time someone moves. If a tenant doesn’t return keys, you may want to charge a fee to cover costs (and, when this is noted in the lease, it can incentivize them to return the keys!). If the tenant still doesn’t return keys, you’ll have to rekey everything their set had access to and take the costs from their security deposit.
You’ll want to do a walk through before you schedule any maintenance, so that you can make note of any repairs or other damages you’ll need to take out of the departing tenant’s security deposit (if there is one). Take photos of the unit and any damages and write down detailed descriptions of what was left for you to take care of. Having a detailed list of what you’ll be retaining a portion of the deposit for can help you down the road, particularly if the tenant fights you on the withholding of any or all of the deposit.
However, it’s best to do this walk through without the departing tenant there—their presence can not only put a lot of pressure on you to give them answers about their deposit on the spot, but they can also mask problems that won’t show up until a few days later, like stains that have been scrubbed from the carpet, only to reappear when the cleaner dries, or lingering pet odors.
Make sure that everything is still in proper working order before a new tenant comes in. Check that the shower, toilet, and sink in the bathroom all function as they should, that the refrigerator and freezer are still working, and that electrical appliances and lights in the unit are still safe—there should not be any loose wires or broken bulbs when a new tenant moves in. You may not be required by law to provide new tenants with working light bulbs, but that small cost can be a good start to the tenant-landlord relationship, and should be considered.
Once all of these tasks have been taken care of, it’s advisable to bring in a cleaning crew for a deep cleaning of the unit. A professional cleaning company will make the place move-in ready, something that your new tenants will appreciate.
As far as painting, unless the paint is peeling or overly damaged, you may not be required to paint. Many landlords allow their tenants to paint for them, provided they repaint it back to a neutral shade upon move-out. It’s up to you how you want to manage painting. Some landlords dislike the prospect and work involved in painting, and offer their tenants the option to choose paint and do it themselves, taking the cost out of their rent. How you deal with painting in apartments between tenants is mostly personal preference, though you should make sure there are no state laws requiring painting every certain amount of years.
Using Your Time Efficiently When Transitioning Tenants
All of these tasks may seem like they won’t take up too much time, but when you have multiple units across multiple buildings, with tenant leases ending at different times, the amount of time you spend preparing your properties for new tenants can really add up. You shouldn’t be spending all of your free time doing apartment upkeep and maintenance; getting involved with investment property was supposed to be beneficial to you, not take up all your time, after all.
You could hire out contractors to do the work for you, of course, but even that requires you to show up to the property to let cleaners, painters, and other maintenance workers in and return to the property when they’re finished to ensure the building is secured. Though it’s less time consuming than doing everything yourself, it’s still a lot of wasted time that you could be spending doing something more productive or enjoyable.
How Property Management Companies Can Help You
If you’ve never worked with a property management company for your properties, you may be surprised at how much they can help with move-out and move-in procedures, as well as other aspects of being a landlord. They’ll be able to contract out the necessary work, meet workers at the property, ensure that the units are ready to go for the next tenant, and work with departing tenants to get everything squared away for you. You can literally hand off all of those pesky jobs to someone else and really reap the benefits of owning investment properties.
Here at Lofty, we believe that owning investment properties shouldn’t be a headache. We take care of everything our clients need, from screening tenants to doing the work between occupancies. Stop wasting time checking whether lights are working and sweeping baseboards and start enjoying being a landlord and property owner.
For more information about how we can help you live the life you deserve, contact us today.
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